Artist Talk by Maria Gaspar, musical performance by James Gordon Williams, followed by a conversation between Gaspar, Williams, Dr. Gina Dent, and Dr. Rachel Nelson at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, October 7th 2023. (Arts UCSC on Vimeo)
Maria Gaspar’s We Lit the Fire and Trusted the Heat (after Angela Davis) (2023-On going) with sonic piece by James Gordon Williams’ The Principle of Alloys (2023) is part of Maria Gaspar’s solo exhibition Compositions on view at the IAS (September 26th 2023 – March 3rd 2024).
A work in progress, Gaspar’s We Lit the Fire invites its audiences and viewers to witness how jail debris (iron bars salvaged from the demolition of the Division 1 Building of the Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago, IL) can be transformed through acts of touch and vibration. Musicians and performers will be working with the artist and these artifacts to transfigure what were once materials of confinement into new experiences of liberation. Important for this ongoing work is that the bars are never restricted, as with an instrument that has a specific sound and a specific manner of being played; instead, new collaborations and improvisations suggest new formal and physical configurations, armatures of support, care, and release, in contrast to those of submission, restraint, and restriction.
Maria Gaspar is a Chicago-born interdisciplinary artist whose practice addresses issues of spatial justice to amplify, mediate, or divert structures of power through individual and collective gestures. Gaspar is the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship for the Creative Arts, Latinx Artist Fellowship, United States Artists Fellowship, Frieze Impact Prize, Art Matters Award, Imagining Justice Art Grant, Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, and Creative Capital Award. Gaspar has exhibited at venues including MoMA PS1, New York, NY; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; and the Abroms-Engle Institute for the Visual Arts, Birmingham, AL. She is an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, holds an MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.
James Gordon Williams is a composer, pianist, improviser, and cultural theorist. He has worked with artists Crystal Z. Campbell, Cauleen Smith, Suné Woods, and poet and MacArthur Fellow Fred Moten. As pianist and improviser, he has performed with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis, bassist Mark Dresser, Miles Griffith and Gregory Porter, MacArthur Fellow George E. Lewis, Mark Dresser, Greg Osby, and the late Charli Persips’ Supersound band, as well as other music luminaries. He has played music in such storied venues as Birdland, Lenox Lounge, Symphony Space, Village Vanguard, and music festivals around the world. As a scholar, he writes on how African American composers and improvisers express political thought through creative practices that often connect to contemporary U.S. social movements. He is the author of Crossing Bar Lines: The Politics and Practices of Black Musical Space (2021). Williams is an Assistant Professor of Composition in African American/Global-African Traditions in the Department of Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he is also affiliate faculty in the Department of History of Consciousness and Visualizing Abolition Studies program.